Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Victim

In my last post I said that at Pre-Paid Legal Services we take into account the employee of a business, the customers of the business, the business itself, and other companies that have a business relationship with them. In this post I want to focus on the individual victim. Victims can be employees, customers or simply someone unfortunate enough to have their information stolen as the result of a breach of records, like from a county or former university for example.

I want to write this series without relying on statistics to make my point. I wade through mountains of identity theft statistics almost every day. Some are so contradictory as to negate their conclusions, and a lot of data and surveys you see from companies are simply skewed to validate preconceived ideas of the company and their product. One fact is irrefutable however. No victim of identity theft cares about statistics, only what resources they need to try and solve their problem. The effectiveness of a service to aid the client is the only statistic that matters.

First, lets’ recognize identity theft as the crime that it is. It is most assuredly not victimless as I can personally attest to. You become one of about 10 million North American victims each year. Your local police and County attorney can’t help you. The Attorney General of your state can’t help you. With very rare exeptions these agencies simply do not have the resources to help individual identity theft victims. Every victim is on their own to plow through the maze of issues they need to resolve in order to try and put the episode behind them. That bears repeating. Every victim of identity theft needs to be actively engaged in dealing with their own identity theft rescue. So, when you become the victim of identity theft you want help plain and simple. As it is with anything every victim wants to be able to pick up the phone and know that the person on the other end will help them.

This is a lot more than working with your bank to get your account straight, although that can be difficult enough. I've often said that victims of financial (bank account), identity theft are fortunate! It is the easiest type of the crime to resolve. However, identity theft might involve representation with the IRS in the event your SSN has been used to obtain employment, or to make false tax filings to get refunds, or not paying taxes at all. Your situation might involve the use of your medical insurance to file false claims, or receive medical services leaving you stuck with the bill and incorrect medical records. It might be one of using your identity in the commission of a crime, or a number of circumstances where an attorney will be your best advocate. Remember, identity theft is a crime, and crime is a legal issue

You will also need your records scrubbed of false entries after the fact. It will likely involve the credit bureaus, but also many other local, federal and private databases that can contain untrue entries and documents depending on the nature of the crime. You will need to have those records restored to their pre-theft status. That can take years.

In my next post we will look at those databases and the businesses that keep them.

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